How to use a bullet journal savings tracker to reach your goals

Call it bullet journal finance: With just a pen and a notebook, you can achieve your savings goals the old-fashioned way.

From websites to spreadsheets, there are lots of budgeting and spending apps. But for some savers, the slickest online experience can’t compete with the power of pen and paper. Enter the bullet journal savings tracker.

Bullet Journal® the company was founded by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer and author. This simple financial tool has become a popular, no-frills way to track your savings. A bullet journal savings tracker can help you save for short-term savings goals like funding a vacation or paying off a car. It can also help you meet any other savings goals you set.

Below, financial experts explain what a bullet journal savings tracker is before showing you how to track your saving progress in your journal. So, if you’re wondering, “Can a bullet journal savings tracker help me save?” you’ll see the answer is a definite yes.

Before we get into bullet journal finance and how to create a bullet journal savings tracker, here’s a crash course on bullet journaling:

What is bullet journaling?

Bullet journaling is a form of next-level note-taking that’s part journal, part planner, and part whatever else you want it to be—including a savings tracker. With bullet journaling, you can transform a notebook into a visual to-do list for your life. Experts recommend you start a new notebook each calendar year.

“It can help keep you organized in all areas of your life, and it allows you to set both short- and long-term goals and see the progress you are making toward achieving them,” says financial writer and author Danny Kofke.

A woman sits by the edge of a lake writing on a piece of paper.

To start one, all you need is a journal and pen or pencil. Steffa Mantilla, Certified Financial Education Instructor at the Money Tamer blog, recommends using an 8.25-by-5.75-inch hardcover notebook with an elastic pen loop and dot-grid pages. “Typically, all the internal pages will be filled with faded, evenly spaced dots,” she says. “If you can’t find a journal with dot-grid pages, square-grid pages will work as a second choice.”

At the core of a bullet journal are five basic elements: an index, a key, a future log, a monthly calendar log, and a weekly or daily log. Here’s a description of each:


Think of this page at the front of your journal as the table of contents. It allows you to easily navigate to the pages in the rest of the journal. Entries in your index will include your key, your future log, your monthly logs, and your weekly or daily logs with the page numbers where those entries are located. Every time you make a new page, you’ll go back to the index and fill in the page number and what you’re tracking on that page.


Since bullet journals are a visual way to capture your to-do lists and savings goals, you might want to design different symbols to denote different tasks. For instance, if you’re reviewing your daily to-do list and see that you didn’t complete a certain task, you might want an arrow to designate a task that should be moved to the next day. Or you might draw boxes next to each task in your to-do list. From there, you could color the boxes fully when you complete the tasks or color them partially when the tasks are only halfway done.

Future log

The future log serves as a bird’s-eye, big-picture view of the important dates that occur during the year. Examples might include birthdays, vacations, doctor’s appointments, major deadlines, goals and more. The future log serves as a way to keep track of important dates and events that might feel too far away to add to your weekly or daily logs.

Monthly calendar log

This section will be a bit more granular than the future log, serving as a high-level look at monthly tasks. At their most basic, these monthly pages should have a space for each day of the month with enough room to plug in any associated tasks and important events. “You can make these as fancy as a watercolor illustration around a calendar or as simple as a list of the days of the month,” Mantilla says.

Weekly or daily log

Once you’ve set up the first four sections, which are your index, key, future log, and monthly calendar log, the remaining pages consist of weekly or daily logs. These logs are where you can write detailed to do lists for the day or week. This is where you’ll also set up your bullet journal savings tracker.

A dad and mom sit at the edge of a pool with their young son and daughter.

How do I create a savings tracker? Take these 3 easy steps

Now that you know the elements of a bullet journal, you’re ready to learn how to incorporate some bullet journal finance into your dotted notebook by creating a bullet journal savings tracker. You can think of the savings tracker as a blank canvas for you to track and achieve your savings goals. “The ideas of what you can track and include in your bullet journal savings tracker are limitless,” Mantilla says.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a bullet journal savings tracker:

Step 1: Set a goal

To get started, use a blank page within your daily log section. On your savings tracker page, write what you’re saving for at the top of the page, and write the dollar amount underneath that. For instance, you could be trying to save $1,000 for a family vacation, or build up a $15,000 emergency fund, or save up for a $50,000 down payment on a home. 

Remember, keeping these trackers in your daily log will help you stay motivated to keep chipping away at your savings goals, whether they’re short-term goals like saving for holiday gifts or long-term goals like saving for a child’s education. Savings trackers will also serve as a running index that you update daily to keep all of your savings goals in one place. By the way, if you have multiple savings accounts, you can design the page in such a way to include more than one goal or you can create an individual page for each goal and tracker.

Step 2: Do some simple math

Let’s say you want to save $1,000 for a family vacation. When you divide the savings goal ($1,000) by the amount of time you have to reach your goal (let’s say five months), you find that you need to save $200 each month to hit your goal. If you prefer to break up your savings goals into smaller chunks, you can always divide by weeks or days instead. For long-term goals, you can divide them up by years, half years, or quarters.

Step 3: Design your savings tracker

Here’s where the creativity comes in. Now that you’ve articulated your savings goal, as well as the amount of money you’ll need to save and the time frame during which you’ll have to save, you can start designing your savings tracker. Remember: Bullet journaling is a visual process. To design a basic savings tracker, you could connect the dots on the page to create the five squares that will represent the five months you have to save for your vacation. Each month that you save $200, you can shade in a square. 

If you want to flex your creativity a bit, you could design a different illustration to map your progress toward your savings goal. Maybe you could design a beach towel with five stripes, and each time you save $200, you color in a different stripe of the beach towel. With other goals, you could make the illustration different: For example, if your goal is to buy a car, you can draw a picture of a car, break it into parts that correspond to your weekly or monthly savings goal, and fill in the different parts as you build up savings. You could even make a collage of your goal by cutting and pasting in images associated with your goal. 

The point is that you’ll be able to track your progress toward your savings goal in a fun, creative way. To keep it functional, make sure to define that one square or stripe is equal to $200 toward the beach vacation goal—just as an example—within your bullet journal’s key. 

“While it may sound silly or juvenile, coloring in a block because you saved money is a great motivator,” Mantilla says. “It works as positive reinforcement and gives you a burst of endorphins. You end up being motivated to save more, and faster, because you want to be able to color in another block.”

Illustration of a bullet journal savings tracker. The text reads: "Use your bullet journal to reach your savings goals. For example. If you're saving for a vacation in five months, then you can fill in a sun each time you hit a monthly goal." Below this text is "Vacation goal: $1,000" and the depiction of an orange colored sun which equals $200 per month. Graphics of three out of five suns below the text are colored orange and the other two suns are not colored.

How can a bullet journal savings tracker help me achieve my goals?

Savings trackers typically use a visual to show you how much progress you’re making toward achieving your goal, says Kofke. Sometimes just seeing the progress you’re making helps motivate you to keep saving. 

“Many New Year’s resolutions fail by Valentine’s Day,” Kofke says. “The reason is many people set very vague and unrealistic goals and don’t write them down. A bullet journal savings tracker forces you to come face to face with your goals on a consistent basis, which encourages most people to stay motivated and keep moving toward the finish line.”

Once you get in the savings groove, you may be motivated to tackle other elements of your finances. Conducting a personal financial review every quarter is a great way to keep the momentum going. 

Plus, if you find that bullet journaling is a good fit for you, you might want to try your hand at other bullet journal finance activities, such as budgeting and expense tracking. 

“The ideas of what you can track and include in your bullet journal savings tracker are limitless.”

Steffa Mantilla, Certified Financial Education Instructor

How much time does it take to use a savings tracker?

It only takes about an hour to set up your journal, and most of that time involves pinning down your financial goals. Then you’ll spend about 10 minutes per day tracking your progress, says Kofke.

You may find that keeping up your bullet journal savings tracker can be relaxing and helps you focus, Mantilla says. “There’s nothing like checking off a list to completion.” 

Do bullet journal savings trackers really work?

In a word, absolutely! The applications are truly endless—you can use a savings tracker for any goal you want to achieve. You can even use a bullet journal savings tracker to map your progress toward long-term goals like saving for retirement

“I’ve used savings trackers for every major savings goal in my life,” Mantilla says. “I’ve used a debt payoff tracker when paying off credit cards and my car loan. I currently have a debt payoff tracker for my mortgage that I look at daily to feel motivated. After my son was born, I had an education savings tracker to put some money into a 529 plan. Every vacation I plan gets a savings tracker as well.” 

How can I customize my bullet journal savings tracker?

Not only is a bullet journal savings tracker a cheap way to keep your savings in order, it’s also endlessly customizable. You can decorate it to make it your own. Mantilla says some people color-code and decorate the edges of their journal pages with colorful doodles and drawings. “The end result is a beautiful and inspiring journal page that you can’t get pre-made,” Mantilla says.

For example, in your daily log, you can include elements like vacation savings plans or a debt payoff tracker. Many of these goals will carry over across the weeks and months. “The ideas of what you can track and include in your money journal are limitless,” says Mantilla. She adds that keeping a bullet journal is a way to inspire you to be more productive toward achieving your goals. 

With your newfound productivity boost, learn how to set financial goals to keep your progress going strong. 

Keep the visualization going to meet your goals

Whether your goal is paying off credit card debt or saving for a down payment on a home, bullet journal savings trackers are a fun and powerful way to achieve financial success.

Creative tools such as bullet journals can help you stay focused on your savings. Expand your tool set and learn how a financial vision board can help you track your financial goals.

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